Keys to Winning Dallas County

Who do Democratic presidential hopefuls need on their side to win in Dallas County? We continue our profile of important Iowa counties. We previously covered Clinton County and Woodbury County.

Main Cities: Waukee (largest), Adel (county seat)

Population: 77,400 (10th largest in the state)

About the County:¬†As more and more rural Iowans leave their communities for the Des Moines suburbs, Dallas County continues to rapidly grow, with Waukee, West Des Moines and Clive leading the way. Dallas County has topped Iowa’s counties in growth in recent years, its population jumping 17% between 2010 and 2014. It’s a Republican stronghold where GOP candidates like to rack up their vote margin. Mitt Romney got 55% in 2012 and Joni Ernst pulled in 59% in 2014. Still, with 10,170 registered Democrats, Dallas County remains an important battleground in Democratic primaries. Its suburban precincts hold plenty of upper-middle class activists helpful to any campaign.

Past Results:

2004: Edwards 52%, Kerry 35%, Dean 7%, Gephardt 3%

2008: Obama 35%, Edwards 32%, Clinton 25%, Richardson 8%

Candidate Prospects:

This was a weak county for Clinton. Her campaign will have some work to do to build up a winning organization, so it’s helpful that local Democrats say Clinton’s organizer here is well-liked already. There’s also a decent Hispanic population in Perry that Clinton might be able to turn out with the recent excitement over her immigration comments.

Richardson easily over-performed his statewide 2% number, giving the long-shot candidates some hope here. Underdog candidates often find more support in counties like Dallas that have well-educated and well-informed voters who closely consider all the options. With the suburbs’ growth, that will be even more true in 2016. O’Malley could pull in some real delegate numbers here in high-turnout suburban precincts and Jim Webb might be able to find a niche of supporters in some of the county’s small towns.

Key Activists:

Julie Stewart – The chair of the Dallas County Democrats and a member of the state central committee, she can connect campaigns with all the major activists in the area. Like many others in Dallas County, she only moved to Waukee in 2011. Since then she’s taken the reigns of the local party and brought in more volunteers to boost Democratic turnout. Stewart also coordinates with some of the surrounding counties’ Democratic activists.

Wayne Reisetter – The last man standing of Democratic elected officials in Dallas County, he serves as the County Attorney. Republicans may hold the other elected positions, but Reisetter can still help work the Courthouse crowd and other activists for Democratic candidates.

Art and Lela Behn – These two were the “Volunteers of the Year” for the Dallas County Democrats in 2014. Art’s the county party vice-chair and Lela’s the activities director. They too are recent transplants, moving to Adel in 2013. If you need advice on which local events to hit up, they’d be useful to talk to.

Marvin Shirley and Jim Lynch – Two former Democratic legislators, both Shirley and Lynch have good connections in the rural part of the county. Shirley runs his family farm in Minburn and serves on the Iowa Farmers Union board, which could be helpful for candidates looking for rural outreach leaders. Lynch lives in Redfield. Both are still active in the local party and often help out in the headquarters office and at parades.

Dave and Loree Miles – The Miles are major Democratic donors who live in Dallas Center. Both are very well-connected within state government agencies and boards. David was the State Board of Regents President and serves on Drake University’s Board of Trustees, among other positions. Loree serves on Iowa’s Board of Transportation Commission and has been a big Planned Parenthood backer. Either should be good gets for a statewide caucus campaign.

Jan Adams, Alice Ward, Linda Lemons, Diane Eby, Bob Ives and David and Diane Leonard – All good Democrats that form the core of volunteer operations locally. Adams heads up phone calling and farms out lists to her committee of about 15 callers. Lohman and Eby help with data input from voter contact sheets. Ward, from West Des Moines, is always helpful with calls and Ives, who recently moved into Urbandale, is often out door-knocking. The Leonards are good local activists who have helped on a number of state and local campaigns.

Desmund Adams – A Clive businessman who worked for years in executive recruiting, he now runs BFGG Holdings LLC. He’s currently planning a run for Congress, but could help connect candidates among his wide network of business leaders and entrepreneurs in the Des Moines metro area.

Michael Sherzan – A well-respected businessman who runs a financial services firm, Sherzan flirted with running for Congress back in 2013. He wasn’t the best-known name at the time, which could actually come in handy for a presidential candidate – he could network a candidate into the business world and West Des Moines crowd that the typical activist might not know.

Bryce Smith and Scott Heldt – These two young men in their 20s are running for two of the State House seats in Dallas County. They both clerked in the Legislature this session and Heldt worked for the Iowa Democratic Party last cycle. They’ll both be busy with their own campaigns, but will be out talking to voters and could probably give good suggestions. Smith owns a local bowling alley that could host a campaign event.

Rob and Claudia Host – A recently retired couple who moved from Hawaii to Iowa specifically to get involved in the 2016 Iowa Caucus. They’ve only been here a few weeks, but are eager to throw themselves into the effort to elect the next president.

Key Issues:

West Des Moines is home to large office parks that house insurance giants Wells Fargo and Aviva, among other major corporate operations. Wells Fargo alone employs over 6,000 in its buildings. They also host their Home Mortgage and Consumer Finance centers here. When Bernie Sanders rails against home foreclosures, he might be speaking directly to some of the employees who process those actions. There’s also a considerable number of small business owners in the suburbs who might appreciate the type of roundtable discussions Clinton held earlier last month. And with many younger families moving out west from Des Moines, education and student loan debt will be high on the list of priorities for Dallas County caucus attendees.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 5/13/15

1 Comment on "Keys to Winning Dallas County"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *